Most people probably don’t put Olive Garden restaurants in the same company, design-wise, with the Loews Hotel or restaurants like Cuba Libre and Susanna Foo. But Daroff Design founder Karen Daroff, whose projects include countless hotels, restaurants, public spaces and offices, among other venues across the country, has taken on the challenge of redesigning Darden Restaurants entire Olive Garden chain, whose look has gotten a little stale.
So far, only two restaurants have undergone the renovations, which, according to the Orlando Sentinal, run “up to $600,000 per location.” The Sentinel ran an interview with Daroff, which provides a window into how this kind of enormous project works. It’s a little Mad Men-esque:
1. Visit Darden HQ and several current restaurants.
2. Have company reps explain the brand image they want to convey.
3. Have a think tank at Daroff Design with clients and designers using a storyboard.
4. Research broader influences (urban Italy, in this case) as a guide.
The plan Daroff came up with hewed to Darden’s goals for the chain, as articulated by Todd Taylor, vice president of design, to the Sentinel:
We were looking to make it much more contemporary…Right now, most Olive Gardens are reflective more of Tuscany and Old World Italy. We wanted that to reflect modern Italy and cities like Florence and even Milan. We also looked at families having a good time. We wanted to appeal to families and expand the market to attract millenials. We also wanted it to be comfortable and friendly for existing guests.
Daroff talks about specific changes she made — opening space up, adding new rustic elements — and about Italian travel here:
Olive Garden update: How designers tackled the job [Orlando Sentinel]
And to see the reactions to the new logo, check out the comments on the below photo post to the chain’s Instagram account: